The original ambition was to, one day, run the London Marathon. Not an unusual ambition, but still a challenge to someone who'd once ran 11 miles in possible training - albeit 5 years earlier!
Having signed up to run in aid of Christian Aid in late 2000, I started full training the day after New Year. Motivating myself out into the freezing January temperatures was a challenge in itself. However, despite travelling with my job and being chair of the Methodist National Youth Executive , which entailed being away a lot of weekends as well, I managed three runs most weeks, including long runs on a weekend. Topped off with a bout of flu four weeks before the event, I was impressed I made it to the start, let alone the finish!
The Christian Aid project I was running for was, aptly, named "Running Water" - focusing on building wells in places like Mali, Africa. I had the idea that, to help make me easier to spot and get extra publicity, I'd have my hair dyed blue or/and the charity info painted into my hair in permanent dye. (Temporary dye was too liable to run and I'd be messy at the finish!) KCK's in Gloucester (Now BeHair) were happy to help and so, a week before the Marathon, Kris, the owner of KCK's, dyed my hair blue and white on top with the word Water in blue at the back.
Half way through creating the "Marathon" cut - waiting for the dye to dry
Haircut sorted, it was off to London. I was staying with my Aunt Val and cousin Sandra, who had also agreed to come and watch. We arranged where they hoped to be and I estimated my predicted time - though how the last 6 miles would be was a guess as I'd not got further than 20 training at home! The night before I met up with other Christian Aid runners and they took some pictures of us in Trafalgar Square.
It was an early start on the Marathon day - a shock for my system as I don't do mornings! (we were up just after 6am!). On the way in I did a live radio interview on the phone with BBC Radio Gloucestershire. The hair stunt had worked as I'd also had some coverage in the local papers too! We got to the start in plenty of time, but the nerves had started big time!
Christian Aid runners in Trafalgar Square on the eve of the Marathon
All dressed up in my running kit and very nervous before the 2001 Marathon began
I'd even had a T-shirt specially done, thanks to Beast T-shirts in Bristol which had some of my “Official” sponsors on, as well as my name…on the back.
At 9.30am it started. At 9.43am I started! I was in the back starting block as I'd predicted taking five hours to complete the course. I had hoped to see my relatives around the Cutty Sark (mile 6/7) but this wasn't the case (despite the blue hair!). Thankfully, at mile 12, I saw a group of four friends from school days, who had come in to watch. This was just before turning onto Tower Bridge - which was quite an experience. The Bridge was packed with supporters and it was an amazing atmosphere as you ran over the bridge. For a fist time runner, it was a huge encouragement. However, I later realised its also a good idea to have your name on the front of your T-shirt! Then they cheer you by name - rather then by "Running water"! Though I was grateful for any encouragement!
Frustratingly, I still didn't see my relatives as I headed around the Isle of Dogs. However, I shocked myself as I was still running as I went over the cobbles by the Tower of London and on to the 23 mile marker. But that was it! I couldn't run any more and had to slow to a walk! This was when you realised how much the crowd spur you on! In addition, after mile 24 I knew there was a chance I'd see my friends again, and couldn't allow them to see me walking! Sure enough, it motivated me to jog, if nothing else, along the Embankment and pass them just before mile 25 finished.
On the Embankment in pain at mile 24/25
What then overwhelmed me was the noise of the crowd as I turned the corner into Parliament Square and the last mile of the race. It was overwhelming enough to breath a new life into me that I found a new strength to pick up pace towards the finish. So much so that I turned into the Mall and burst into a sprint to the finish line - which even amazed me! I'd done it though! I'd finished the London Marathon in 4 hours 19 minutes and 32 seconds - remarkably quicker than I expected!
Once I'd acquired kit bag, eaten a Mars Bar and managed to get through the crowds I found my relatives - who'd not seen me either! - and friends, and the other Christian Aid runners and supporters. I was overwhelmed by the event. I'd never expected to say I'd enjoyed it but actually had found the atmosphere amazing. The support - a lot by prayers from many church people - as well as those who came and cheered me in person carried me round. I was blistered and ached but I didn't care - I'd done it! I'd achieved a lifetime ambition of running the London Marathon and thought the finishers T-shirt was apt "One less thing to do in life"
One of the proudest moments in my life - wearing a London Marathon finisher's medal for the first time
My first ever supporter group! - from left Chris, Dave, Lucas, Claire, Aunt Val, Ros and Sandra
After the event, I was staggered with the sponsorship pledged - over £3,150! My brother Dave had been inspired to have a go - as it wasn't usual for me to do something of a sporty nature - that was his elk! - and I swore never again......the famous last words as 2002 and beyond have proved!
Media Coverage 2001
In addition to the featured items below, I was also in the Gloucestershire Echo, Methodist Recorder, interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire and had a second feature in The Citizen
The Citizen - 18 April 2001
DVLA Staff Magazine "Licence" - June 2001 Top of Page